Saturday, August 27, 2016

Open Project: Decoding Civil War Telegrams

Want to be a history detective?  A collection of over 15,900 telegrams and codebook pages containing messages to President Lincoln, known as the Thomas T. Eckert Papers, have been digitized by Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in one of the most massive and ambitious archival projects for the Civil War. You can participate in this effort by helping to decipher them on this Zooniverse project website. It walks you through the entire process and the interactive interface is easy to use.

Cursive handwriting is not being taught to kids in schools anymore, so future generations may be unable to read anything before the age of printers! That's a scary thought. (My own handwriting in grade school was heinously bad, so in a way I can understand their decision). It's important that we start rewriting historical documents now or history could be lost forever.

Here's an example below that I just transcribed. No one has read this message in 153 years. If you are good at reading calligraphy and would like to help with this open crowd-sourced project, you can either create a free account and discuss in the forum, or you can work anonymously. Your efforts will help historians and researchers better understand how battles unfolded by providing access to an untapped resource for field intelligence!

New York City July 13, 1863
For Col Jas B Fry Prov.Marshal
"A mob estimated at from ten to thirty thousand men has assailed & destroyed the office of the Provost Marshal for the ninth district. The guard was completely routed & many injured. Gen'l (Abbott?) has ordered into the city all available forces but they will not exceed five hundred men of all kinds not more than two hundred regulars. The mob threaten destruction of all Gov't offices. I have sent all the enrollment papers to Governors Island. The demonstration is extremely dangerous. I respectfully suggest that a force sufficient to quell the mob be immediately sent to me as nearly all the effective militia Reg'ts are absent & those remaining her cannot be relied upon. Col. Nugent is now at the scene of the disturbance. Signed Samuel B Glassey, Deputy